Hausrat / Household assets. The artist uses objets trouves such as branches, stones, wire, and foil, as well as hair, pantyhose, scraps of newspaper, and foam, weaving them into pictures or sculptures. The form of the individual object is not the prime focus and the artistic act is not selection, not first and foremost re-evaluation but fundamental construction, using things that are available to us and that can be taken beyond themselves-an ideal of metamorphotic and organic development.
Alexandra Bircken combines everyday, well-known, and familiar materials into sculptural objects. She
uses objets trouvés such as branches, stones, wire, and foil, as well as hair, pantyhose, scraps of news-
paper, and foam, weaving them into pictures or sculptures. But her prime material is wool. Woollen
thread turns up repeatedly, connecting and linking individual objects into an open fabric as in the
“units,” large net pictures that stretch between framework constructions; or it is literally knitted to form
narrative objects. Her works develop from within. In the first place, the wool is a thread worked by sim-
ple handiwork techniques into something, an object that can nest on branches or be enclosed in mortar.
Her materials nestle against, envelop one another, and are often in striking contrast: pigmented wax cov-
ers wire netting or hair envelops a ski. The soft materials confront their gender-specific stereotypes,
counteract them and thus implicitly demonstrate their contradictions.
Alexandra Bircken's compositional technique divests the object trouvé of its original properties, but, keeping its modes of meaning in mind, gives birth to organic objects. The anti-form of Robert Morris and Eva Hesse inevitably comes to mind, but Bircken makes greater use of the readymade principle to incorporate it in her pictures and sculptures. The form of the individual object is not the prime focus and the artistic act is not selection, not first and foremost re-evaluation but fundamental construction, using things that are available to us and that can be taken beyond themselves—an ideal of metamorphotic and organic development.
Her penchant for textile material is no accident. The artist, born in Cologne in 1967, studied fashion design until 1995 at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Up to her first ex- hibition in 2004 at BQ in Cologne, she designed fashion and textile accessories that, although they could be worn, had to some extent already lost their purely functional nature, coming to display sculptural properties. In 2004 Alexandra Bircken was awarded a studio grant by the Cologne Kunstverein. Since then she has regularly participated in international exhibitions.
Bircken deliberately employs the handicraft technique knitting as a means of artistic expression in order to combine different narratives and narrative styles into an “alexandrine” fabric. This opens up various levels of interpretation without imposing meanings. The critical aspect in Bircken's work is at first glance as delicate and soft as the netted fabric itself. In fact, however, it is just as firmly tied in and in- separably woven into it. Her artistic approach is no threadbare reminiscence of her own biography. It displays traces and critique of conventional gender and artist roles and of clichés about material and gestures.
For the Kunstverein Hamburg, Alexandra Bircken is developing an installation on the upper floor of the Kunstverein, which, inspired by the spatial situation of columns and joists and the open window fronts, weaves, interlaces and intertwines, setting a quite different materiality against the architecture and thus extending the suspense of the individual works to the entire exhibition.
The Kunstverein's programme for 2012 begins with a major solo exhibition by Gert & Uwe Tobias, who convert the entire space of the Kunstverein into a fantastic headspace. From the foyer, up the stairs into the two exhibition halls, their works are being presented from January to March 2012 over a total area of 1,300 square metres.
Part of their installation will then disappear to make room for other presentations until, by the end of the year, only the foyer and staircase remain. What all these exhibitions (the shows to follow Gert & Uwe Tobias and Alexandra Bircken are solo exhibitions by Florian Baudrexel and Manuel Graf) have in com- mon is the shift—in the context of contemporary art production—between seemingly folkloristic and han- dicraft-oriented everyday practices and constructivist abstraction. They are in quest of the origins of hu- man activity and being in collective and private realms, reflecting on an attentive form of subjectivity be- yond expression focused on any individual.
Image: Alexandra Bircken, Lapsus, 2010. Mixed Media, 322,6 x 266,7 x 45,7 cm. Foto: Francesco Niccolai, Florenz. Courtesy: BQ, Berlin; Herald St, London; Kimmerich, New York
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Opening: Friday, May 11, 2012, 7 pm
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